Archived entries for zeitgiest

You’ve heard the name in passing, friends or coworkers talking about the curious new artist with the disastrous performance on Saturday Night Live, so you look her up on YouTube.

This is what you find.

A beautiful young girl with a sultry voice that evokes the best moments of Tori Amos from the 90s.

But, there’s something wrong.

The beauty is artificial. Sculpted with a surgeon’s knife and approaching the alienating expanse of the uncanny valley.

The music is crafted so she won’t have to push out of her vocal range, organized into easily editable phrases that can be cut together from multiple takes and written by song writers that know just what strings to tug in their audience.

The video is just like a few others she put out, a mix of public domain footage and moments of her mouthing the words at the camera, head askew in an awkward attempt at demure sexuality.

If everything about Lana Del Ray smacks of artificial, untenable perfection because that’s just what it is.

Her real name is Elizabeth Grant, and she’s a millionaire’s daughter. Her father made his money by jumping on thousands of domains in the early days of the internet and charging people to lease them from him. Which meant that he had the capital to indulge his daughter when she wanted to become a star. He’s hired managers, producers, song writers, stylists and god knows what else to turn his daughter into this impossible thing.

Elizabeth’s been at this for years, trying to find the right combination of things to fit her unique style of might-be talent. It took them five years and who knows how many marketing reps to settle on the Lana Del Rey name

She released her first EP in 2008, then a full album in 2011 – neither of which are publicly available any more because a decision was made by her “team” to pull them so they’d have a clean field for the newest iteration of the Lana Del Rey construct.

Which about catches us up to the slow motion car wreck that was her on SNL.

Normally, I’d be at head of the pack, racing into savage a pop star for their hubris and lack of talent. But, there’s something different here. To me the story isn’t about how she can’t perform live, the story is about how she was made.

With digital recording technology we can already create singing computer programs to power virtual pop idols. With Lana Del Rey, though, we’re now coming at it from the infinite-number-of-monkeys-with-type-writers direction. Provided a person hits every note in a song just once while be recorded, the song can be sutured together with ones and zeroes into something that sounds like it was done in a single take.

And when a creation like Lana Del Rey steps out onto a live stage, how can you expect such a meticulously crafted illusion to hold up? It would be akin to asking Peter Jackson to do The Lord of the Rings live…in one take.

Lana Del Rey does give me a bit of hope, though. Hope that the same technology that was used to build her will be used by more interesting people to do more interesting things, and they’ll be the ones that push the horizon out just a bit more.

(I will admit I’ve found myself humming the hook to Video Games without realizing it.)

Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Challenger Shuttle disaster.

The mission designation was STS-51-L. It was to be the tenth mission for Challenger, and the twenty fifth mission the Space Shuttle Program.

It was one of the greatest failings in American space exploration, and a memory I’ll never forget.

Challenger disintegrated seventy-three seconds after liftoff. A simple seal failed, venting super-hot pressurized gas into the outside of the ship, causing the right solid rocket booster to sheer itself off from the vessel, rupturing the main external fuel tank.

Twenty-five years ago today, at roughly the time I’m writing this, seven brave men and women gave their lives in pursuit of something greater than any of us.

And as child, I watched it all happen.

I was young, very young. But I remember being in a classroom with other teachers and students, probably preschool. I remember being very excited to watch the shuttle launch. Even at that age, I understood the magic and the importance of what I was seeing. At the preschool, we watched all of the launches. It meant a disruption in the normal day’s activities, and added bonus for me.

I remember them calling all of us in. I remember the countdown. I remember the liftoff. Then I remember not understanding what had happened, and being perturbed by what happened next. One of the teachers immediately turned off the television, and ushered us all back to whatever it was we were supposed to be doing. Then I remember them talking in the hall, some of them crying.

I didn’t see another space shuttle launch until first grade. They were unsure about even letting us watch that one. You could feel the apprehension coming off the adults. They stunk of it. I guess they were afraid that seeing two launches turning into shooting stars would do horrible and irreversible things to our young minds. Me? I was just happy to get to see another shuttle launch.

And for a while in elementary school, we watched every shuttle go up. Then, gradually, it started to happen less and less. The shuttles would still going up every few months, but for some reason the teachers and students around me stopped caring.

Which I think speaks a huge volume about where the world took a misstep.

We slowly stopped caring about the bigger possibilities in life as we turned inward to cellphones and video games and the trappings of the digital age.

We started looking at space as place to hang communications satellites that would let us order more cheap things from China.

We stopped looking at it like those seven lost souls saw it. As a place to explore, to discover not just new things out in the black, but new things about ourselves and what we are capable of.

I firmly believe that space is our salvation. If we can get out of this gravity well, get up there, and see what’s out there, we have a shot at it.

But then, when I look back down at the Earth, I shake my head knowing that we’ll probably never make it there.

So, I look to you, as the child in that classroom twenty-five years ago. Don’t turn off the TV, don’t forget it is happening. Don’t let them tell you it is too expensive, or unnecessary or dangerous. Because it is the most important thing we as humans can possibly do.

Don’t let those seven have died in vain. Don’t forget about what it all means, means for us, and meant to them.

Crew of STS-51-L Challenger

Commander Francis “Dick” Scobee
Pilot Michael J. Smitd
Mission Specialist 1 Ellison Onizuka
Mission Specialist 2 Juditd Resnik
Mission Specialist 3 Ronald McNair
Payload Specialist 1 Sharon Christa McAuliffe
Payload Specialist 2 Gregory Jarvis
   

Requiescat in Pace.

Time to do this again.

How it works: I post the images I’ve collected during my amblings around the Internet until I run out of them or get bored. In most cases, I don’t have any idea where they came from or who made them. Just sit back and let the Imagegeist roll over you.

New images are after the cut.

Hindenburg over NYC

LSD - Start of something wonderful

Santa has a present for you

Optimist Prime

Hugs?

Continue reading…

I’m sure by this point, you’ve all heard of the Cthulhu dildos. Boing Boing had them, and people were tweeting about them even before that.

I’m not sure what more you need to know beyond the phrase “Cthulhu dildo”, but here’s what I’m talking about if you are (luckily) in the dark.

That bit of eldritch sex toy plastic got me thinking about all the weird mass market tie-in sex toys that have come out lately.

Take the Hustler/Fleshlight alien-vagina-in-a-flashlight-case. It was part of a partnership between the two companies to promote Hustler’s porn parody of Avatar. Think of it this way – if Avatar took 3D filmmaking to a new heights of technology, the Avatar porno was going to take masturbation to new heights of technology as well. Which I guess is great for people that fantasize about watching adult film stars dressed like Thundersmurfs go at it while sticking their bits into the triangular orifice of a piece of molded plastic.

If you ask me, the real technical achievement of the Avatar porn parody was that they managed find body make-up that wouldn’t smear all over everything once the bow-chica-wow-wow started.

But, I digress.

Twilight fans of both sexes can also have their plastic genital needs seen to, as well.

Chief amongst them is what L and I laughingly refer to as the “sparklecock“. (We’ve named a band in ROCK! after it.) It’s a pretty standard dildo, except for the infusion of sparkle glitter to make it match the sparkle that Twilight’s vampires have. Yes, I know, vampires aren’t supposed to sparkle, but whatever, they do in Stephanie Meyers’ head. The other key feature of these things is their temperature retention properties. See, the vampires in Twilight are dead – their bodies are cold. And this plastic was designed to stay cold if you stuck it in the fridge for a while. For the “authentic experience”, as the seller promises.

For those with their genitals on the outside, there’s also the Fleshlight-esque “Succu Dry“, a plastic woman’s fanged mouth. It’s pretty much your standard plastic cavity, except this time the mold is of a mouth and not of lady parts. Branding-wise, the manufacturers are leaning more toward the True Blood angle than the Twilight kids. Probably a smart idea, since most of the male Twi-hards probably wouldn’t want a blowjob anyway, at least not from a girl. But, it is still a sex toy cash-in on the popularities of vampires right now.

It does make me wonder, though. I mean, teeth are a perpetual worry during the specific sex act the Succu Dry is designed to replicate. What sort of laissez-faire attitude must you take toward your sexual well being when you decide that not only are teeth OK, but that bigger more, dangerous teeth are BETTER. It makes me feel that the world is probably better off with that person sticking their penis into plastic that some one else, you know?

Not to be out done by American perverts, the Japanese also have their own versions of a Fleshlight. They call it the “ona-hole”. Yeah. Can’t make this shit up. Anyway. The “ona-holes” get branded just like Fleshlights do here. Except sometimes they go a bit…awry. Like when instead of making the internal part into something that would seem to fit what you’re putting into it, you instead make it into a negative space molding of a famous anime character. An underage, marginally pubescent anime character, at that. I can only assume that the Japanese are training their men to use their penises as lock picks. Because nothing else really makes sense.

“Ona-hole”.

Jesus fucking Christ.

EDIT: Oh god, my friend Katie just sent me a link to the sparklecock in full effect. It’s a plastic dong flying in mid-air, up to you how safe for work it is.

Now that we’ve been over the “What” of Hatsune Miku, let’s go over the “Why”. As in, why she’s important.

Pat commented yesterday that on stage Hatsune’s not that different from The Gorillaz live shows, and that her voice is still based on a real person’s voice. And he’s right about both of those things. The Gorillaz project animated performers onto a screen that masks human musicians, and Hatsune’s voice is built up from the phoneme recordings of a real person.

But her key difference from previous, similar things is that her plasticity, her artificiality, is COMPLETE. Absolutely nothing about her is real.

First, let’s think about her as an animated character.

Animated characters are tied to visuals and to voices. It can be argued that Mel Blanc was more key to popularizing most of the Warner Bros characters than their visual representations. The problem here is that Mel Blanc is a human, and humans, well not to spoil the end of your life for you, die. And when Blanc finally did expire, Warner had several years where they had to convince people that Bugs Bunny really sounded like this new guy, and not at all like that old, dead guy. Same thing with Kermit the Frog, or Tony the Tiger, or any character that’s deeply engrained in the social consciousness and voiced by a real human with an expiration date. Hatsune Miko has no expiration dates. Because her voice is created in a computer by the clever application of a few billions ones and zeroes, she’ll never get die. She’ll never get old, go through puberty, or ruin her voice with smoking and whiskey. A thousand years from now, she’ll sound the exact same as she does right now. She is the first voice of the future, because in the future she’ll sound exactly the same.

Now, let’s think about her as a commercial character.

Ultimately, Hatsune Miko was created as a bit of stunt by Crypton Future Media. They’re sound technology people. So, they made the apex of current sound technology. She was meant to raise awareness of the company that created her, and I’m sure her records sales are a nice bonus. Like Pandora and her box, Crypton’s unwittingly unleashed something on the world. There is no question that most Disney pop stars are trained and groomed from a young age to become billion dollar industries. There is also no question that Disney would probably love to not have said pop stars taking a chunk of their revenue and then spend it on things that get them plastered all over the front of grocery store tabloids. Making a pop star out of ray tracing and vocal synthesizers is one way to do that. And it doesn’t have to be Disney doing it, either. If a relatively small company like Crypton can do it, anyone can. Every new product or initiative could have a fake pop star attached to it, filling the air waves and fiber optic cables. And speaking as a guy in advertising who could pitch that to a client, this is fantastic and frightening

Lastly, let’s think about her as a musical character.

Touched on this a bit in the first one, but Hatsune and the future things like her, are fixed point in space. The point can be fixed as a 16 year old pop idol, or a 60 year old torch singer, or a 20 something folk-rocker. And since they are artificial, and built up by a team of people, they’ll never go off on some bizarre introspective tangent and make a record like Pet Sounds. Their music will be consistent, uniform across all of their releases. And if the people behind them ever get bored or want to try something different? They’ll just whip up a new vocaloid and create a new artist.

Hatsune Miko is important because of the simplicity of what she represents: The idea of an unchanging, easily replaceable commercial entity that you owe nothing to and will never do anything to embarrass or betray you.

While I could put money on their never being an indie-rock vocaloid success (ONLY because the hipsters won’t allow it, not because it couldn’t be good), I can’t put that same money on idorus like Hatsune Miko carving out a niche for themselves in pop music.

I give you Hatsune Miku.

A teal-green haired Japanese school girl that’s apparently holding a leek or onion or something in this picture.

She’s fake. Completely not real. She’s the intellectual property of Japan’s Crypton Future Media. And probably the most crystal clear vision of the future that I’ve ever seen.

Crypton Future Media makes sound…things. Mainly digital libraries of sounds or programs to generate those libraries. They’ve sold their products to video game companies, software developers, and even Japanese government agencies. After looking over the list of companies they’ve done work for, I’d be willing to put money that everyone with a toe in the digital world has probably heard their stuff.

So what is a glorified MIDI card of a company doing whipping up an anime character with an apparent obsession with vegetables of the Alliaceae family?

The answer lies in a translation of her name.

Hatsune Miku can be loosely translated to mean “First Sound of the Future”.

And that’s exactly what Hatsune Miku is. She’s a completely artificial anime-esque pop sensation. In a world where pop stars are more often than not manufactured people with equally fake personalities and musical talents, Crypton Future Media has taken a visionary step and gone ahead and cut out the fleshy animal medium entirely.

Here’s the result, performing live in concert:

Hatsune Miku’s voice is created through the use of Yamaha’s Vocaloid voice synthesizer technology. Crypton took the vocal patterns of a young female anime voice actor, Saki Fujita, and through some technical wizardry and the Vocaloid synthesizer, created their most important product yet – a pop star.

God, I can’t tell you how surreal typing that line was. Anyway.

When she…err…it preforms, it’s a pre-rendered holographic projects done against a semi-permeable screen that lets you see the band behind her (featuring some of the crew from Crypton Future Media) and gives an illusion of depth.

Check out this longer video:

William Gibson, the Father of Cyberpunk, was speculating about creatures like Hatsune over a decade ago in his novel Idoru. But some how, I don’t think this is what he had in mind. While she’s not the first, she’s the biggest and most popular digital synthetic artificial whatever pop idol created yet. Hatsune Miku really is the first voice of the future.

Albeit a very, annoying, grating, saccharine future.

More on this tomorrow.

A Mexican street religion born from a crucible of violence and desperation. The guy at the end sums it all up perfectly.

“The way I see it is…no one’s eternal in this life. I don’t ask her for eternal life, I ask her for a happy death. Because I don’t think anyone wants to die in a bad way. And we’re all on the list and the day that she decides to come for me I’m going to receive her. I’m going to welcome her.”

After all, why would you want eternal life when all your life has been is struggle and suffering?

And today, appropriately enough, is Santa Muerte’s holiday. I offer my last FastFiction as a gift to her.

From the always incredible Coilhouse.net.

I’m just going to leave this here.

A Jacksonville mother charged with shaking her baby to death has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Alexandra V. Tobias, 22, was arrested after the January death of 3-month-old Dylan Lee Edmondson. She told investigators she became angry because the baby was crying while she was playing a computer game called FarmVille on the Facebook social-networking website.

Tobias entered her plea Wednesday before Circuit Judge Adrian G. Soud. A second-degree murder charge is punishable by up to life in prison.

And then I’m going to point out that games are built using a combination of math, art, storytelling and psychiatry. The last one is especially true of persistent world games. We use systems like B.F. Skinner’s schedules of reinforcement to find the exact number of times a player will perform a tast – say watering their crops in Farmville – before you have to give them a reward. Encouraging the “Well, I’ll do just one more X before I quit” behavior the designer wants. And when we’ve done our jobs correctly, that last time is the time that gives you a reward, causing the player to either continue playing, or look forward to their next play experience. We give them cravings, essentially.

Persistent world games are built to give people a good feeling, and then make them want more of that feeling.

It is an intentionally, deliberately created method of addiction.

So, when you see things like the news story above, think about it in the same way you would when a crack addict burns her house down and kills her infant child.

Because they’re both the same story, of some one who succumbed to an addiction.

Only difference is one of them happens to be available at Best Buy and Walmart and on your kid’s Christmas list.

Some backstory before we get into this.

In addition to all the state, local and federal elections going on, there are also 184 state ballot measures (as of this writing) that people will be voting on November 4th. They run the full political gambit, from general budgetary funding measures to more high profile issues like California’s legalization of recreational pot use and Colorado’s declaration of a fertilized egg as a legal “person”.

Those two ballot measures are probably more meaningful, in a broad test-case sense, than the inevitable bitch slap the Democrats are going to take from the right – Republican or Tea Party.

The California pot issue isn’t what I want to talk about, but it does have some interesting implications if they can save their budget while at the same time lowering their crime rate and prison populations.

What I do want to talk about is the Colorado ballot measure that specifies the moment a sperm and an egg legally become a “person” with full legal rights and not just a group of cells with potential.

Yes, boys and girls, I’m going to talk about abortion. So, you might as well start drinking.

First off, let’s talk about me. Personally, I wish there was never the need for another abortion. I wish all pregnancies were wanted, complication free, and all children were born to parents who loved them, nurtured them and could provide for them.

I also wish I had a space ship and could explore Mars.

Too bad the latter wish is more likely to happen than the former.

I don’t like abortion, I don’t encourage people to have abortions, but I’m not going to push external morals on some one in a situation I could never understand. I am Pro-Choice. Which is distinctly different from Pro-Abortion, a fact that seems to escape an alarming number of people.

So, that out of the way, let’s turn back to Colorado and Colorado State Amendment 62. The text of which is as follows:

Section 32. Person defined. As used in sections 3, 6, and 25 of Article II of the state constitution, the term “person” shall apply to every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.

Beginning of biological development of course being the moment a sperm has fertilized an egg. Which would make any act to destroy said fertilized egg tantamount to, you know, murder.

And since the wording of the amendment is so broad, it also knocks out things like fetal stem cell research, and any method of birth control that doesn’t operate on the front end – ie, condoms only, the Morning After pill is out.

62 is being supported by groups like Personhood Colorado, which do touching and subtle ads like this one.

Wait, I’m sorry, did I say touching and subtle? I mean blatantly wrong and disturbingly unhinged. The Supreme Court hates liberty and freedom? Obama as the angel of death? A fucking “abortion industry”? That makes billions? Nixon was a baby hating liberal? I…what? What the hell was that?

And let’s not forget their wonderfully surreal radio ad where they compare abortion to slavery.

That’s right, the same bunch of white people in Colorado that called the first black president an angel of death also said abortion is akin to slavery. Progressive, aren’t we?

Thankfully, these crazies have no chance of winning. The last time this measure came up in Colorado it was beaten 3 to 1, and this one isn’t expected to do any better.

No, they won’t win. They’ll just get to go around yelling about things that aren’t true for another election cycle, tearing down the walls of cogent discourse, making the other side have to yell just as loud to be heard. And in doing so, they’ll gain ground by pulling their opposition down to their level, by giving themselves more ways to point across the way and go “Look! See! They’re crazy!”

Yeah, well, you’re the one that made me that way.

Thanks to Stephanie for pointing this out.

I…I don’t even know what to say to this.

What you need to know: Anderson Cooper is interviewing a Michigan assistant Attorney General about his blog where he rails against the gay head president of the University of Michigan student assembly. And by rails I mean says some really over the top and offensive shit.

Hit play and give it a few minutes. When you’re sufficiently creeped out by the guy’s eyes, I’ll be waiting down here for you.

Yeah. Look at them twitch. Beady little things. Bouncing all over the screen, avoiding reality.

Done? Ok.

The best part of this video? The subtext that Anderson Cooper is in all probability gay, interviewing a guy who is probably in the closet, about a guy who is out and the guy who’s in the closet probably not even realizing that his interviewer has been on the cover of The Advocate.

The guy’s a troll that’s getting trolled by Anderson Cooper.

How awesome is that?

Pat pointed this out today on Twitter.

@Patorma Hey the assistant AG from my home state is fucking insane (and probably gay) : http://bit.ly/btw4yy

From Wired.com’s Danger Room:

Seven elderly retired Air Force officers called a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington on Monday afternoon — covered, improbably, by CNN — to disclose that they witnessed the UFOs rendering U.S. nuclear missiles temporarily inoperable during the Cold War.

…..

Hastings didn’t serve in the military himself, but he worked with Robert Salas, a retired Air Force missile launch officer, to assemble a crew of former airmen whose stories shared a remarkable similarity. From 1963 to 1980, all were present at U.S. nuclear missile sites when the flashing lights of alien spacecraft — some disc-shaped, some conical, some spherical — appeared before them or their colleagues. (Hastings said he couldn’t rule out that alien contacts we haven’t heard about are ongoing to this day.) Some confessed that they didn’t see the ships themselves, but heard reliable accounts from trustworthy comrades. In most cases, though, when the aliens approached, the missiles stopped being responsive to technicians’ controls.

But the aliens didn’t actually zap the missiles. They just flew over the bases, worked their advanced-technological magic and disappeared into the night. “They could have done a lot more damage,” Salas told Danger Room when asked how he knew the alien counter-missile efforts didn’t portend a more hostile purpose, like a forthcoming attack.

Like most of the veterans recounting their close-encounter experiences, Bruce Fenstermacher, a ruddy, 68-year old retired Air Force captain, didn’t actually want to be quite as definitive as Hastings and Salas were about the aliens’ policy preferences. “I think they’re monitoring us so that we don’t mess things up,” he said, expressing faith in the aliens as enlightened interplanetary guardians.

Hastings allowed that his theory was “speculative,” but “given the available facts, it is a viable scenario.”

…..

Robert Jamison was a young lieutenant working as a Minuteman targeting officer in on Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana in 1967. “My main job was to point the missiles in right direction,” he joked. But one night in March, all ten of his missiles, known as a flight, suddenly went off alert status — right as rumors of a UFO visit circulated through Malmstrom. While he never himself saw any aliens, he heard about a UFO landing in a “deep ravine” nearby and interviewed a security guard who described “two small red lights off at a distance” that began to close in; the guard broke down and cried at the recollection. Jamison believes the encounter was an incident that’s come to be known as the Belt, Montana UFO sighting

…..

If people will allow themselves to listen, that is. Dwynne Arneson, a Vietnam veteran who served at Malmstrom alongside Jamison during the the 1967 incident, lamented that the anxieties of the age are proving dangerously distracting. “People are so wrapped up nowadays in their own world,” he observed. “They’re worried about jobs. They’re worried about mortgages. They could care less about UFOs and ETs and paranormal events.”

I used to be a big believer in aliens and alien conspiracy theories. Probably that whole being a 12-15 year old boy when the X-Files was in its prime. When I discovered girls, and girls that wanted me to touch their bits, well, as you can imagine I stopped thinking about aliens.

The rest of the world is like that, too. Alien sightings spike when people are worried about things they can’t control. Nuclear war, Biblical apocalypse, things that are so massive that they’ll just sweep over you like you weren’t even there. Adolescence is like that in a lot of ways. Your body is changing, your concept of the world is changing – no, wait – getting drastically fucking altered, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it, save just ride it out.

But then when you’re given real, tangible problems like making rent or feeding yourself (or in my teenage self’s case – getting a bra off), you could give two shits what’s happening or not happening in space. Alien sightings have dropped off dramatically since the end of the Cold War and the start of the new millennium. There’s been a bit of an uptick as we get close to 2012, but the grim reality of The Great Recession is keeping people’s eyes out of the skies and on their wallets.

Not that I wouldn’t mind a world where everything these guys said wasn’t completely true, mind you.

It’d be nice knowing there are benevolent aliens out there making sure we didn’t wipe ourselves out.

Back in April 2009, just before Tax Day, I wrote a rather hasty one-off tirade about the Tea Party. Called, rather uncreatively on my part, “Fuck you stupid idiots and your fucking #teaparty“.

Ahem. Needless to say, I wasn’t going for the subtle. I thought then, and I still think now, that the Tea Party is a hodgepodge of bad ideas with no direction and no mandate. The only reason it’s managed to reach this point is because certain media outlets have been using their considerable influence to give them legitimacy.

(The same media outlet that’s been recently outed as spying on private citizens and government officials in England to generate news leads. Personal freedoms? Pfft!)

On the whole, I think the whole thing reeks of “I’m taking my ball and going home” now that Washington is trying to play a different game than they were for the first 8 years of the 21st century.

(Which in, full disclosure, I’m not thrilled about. Obama really hasn’t hit anything out of the park and has proven his inexperience time and time again. I refer to him as President Pussy now.)

The last time that I wrote about the Tea Party, I pointed out that one of their main support groups in that nascent stage was the American Family Association. Which I called then, and still call now “One of the great moralist cesspools in America.”

And what should I hear this morning on NPR as I’m getting ready for work? This:

Tea Party Supporters Debate Movement’s Direction

Morning Edition is taking a closer look at the groups that make up the Tea Party. Steve Inskeep talks to Toby Marie Walker, lead facilitator for the Waco Tea Party, and Bryan Fischer, of the American Family Association. Walker says the Tea Party’s issues need to remain strictly fiscal. Fischer says that if the Tea Party doesn’t incorporate social issues into its agenda, it runs the risk of dividing the conservative movement.

Listen to that. Listen to the AMA open its maw, put the Tea Party between its teeth and growl “If you fuck with us we will KILL YOU. We made you, we can end you just as easily.”

It almost makes you sad for the Tea Party. This lady, who I’m sure has some legitimate, if misguided and probably far-fetched, complaints with the government is basically being beaten with an inch of her political life by a crazy man who thinks that homosexuality is criminal, all Muslims are dangerous and that you should have to be of a certain kind of Christianity to hold office.

And you know the saddest part? He’s right. All the Christian Right has to do to kill the Tea Party is say that they are trying to erode the morality of the country and the Tea Party is done. Just like that.

That NPR bit? It wasn’t a conversation about the Tea Party, or a friendly debate. It was a knife to a throat, it was a threat to play along or else.

So, not only do I say Fuck the Tea Party, but I say Fuck the American Family Association doubly so.

You’re hate mongers that are scared of change and sex and the rest of the world. And I’m not.

Putting together a piece about the asteriskpunks (*punks) sub cultures/genres that are out there. Focusing primarily on the cultural impetus for their appearance in the zeitgeist.

Dumping loose notes here so I can have a web-based reference point.

Attacking 4 *punks as the best examples of this

  • Cyber
  • Steam
  • Diesel
  • Wind

Clockworkpunk, Atomopunk, et al are really just narrow slivers that don’t really attack things in new ways. Effectively like working at a hotdog restaurant, then spinning off a new restaurant that serves everything with extra relish and calling it a new cuisine. It isn’t, and they aren’t.

Need to establish definition of PUNK as a whole. Speak to nihilistic, dead-end leanings. Something is lost in punk, a death is coming, and this is the raging before the long quiet.

All *punks pull something from previous forms of literature. Pulps, etc.

Cyberpunk

  • Original *punk. Came from the rise of instant digital communication, personal computing, and the potential of unlocking the human gene as a tool.
  • Also of note is the ever present megacorp. Massive employer/producer/state that is more present than the national entity.
  • Essentially it’s about the loss/erosion of individuality through technology and the corporate system
  • Oddly, Cyberpunk is positioned against the current Nerd Cult of Singularity.
  • Pulls from Noir tropes for stories in a lot of cases.

Steampunk

  • The Big One right now. Really just sort of an updating of what Jules Verne was doing 100+ years ago.
  • Reaction to the lack of heirlooms in modern life. Coveted, saved for possessions are iDevices, laptops, game systems, TVs, etc.
  • Desire is to go back to a point where the artisan could still craft something that hold modern functionality.
  • In past, man would buy a pocket watch with his first check (example). That would get passed down, build history/story. Current things are trashed for newer versions.
  • Parallel to Arts and Crafts movement that came as a rejection of Industrialization
  • Irony? Devices used to build community are the things they are railing against.

Dieselpunk

  • Newer, but building in relevance.
  • A swan song to the internal combustion engine. The device that powered trains, automobiles and planes.
  • The engine that shrunk the world is now dying, replaced by electric
  • Examples of electricity powering the villain is common. Robots, lasers, etc.
  • Pulling from the classic 30s/40s stories of air combat.

Windpunk

  • Smallest of the *punks I’ve chosen. But, still has a clearly defined message
  • Key points of this talk about giving people the kind of mobility/life they have now, but without environmental impact
  • Survivor’s guilt seems to play into this. Guilt that the world is in this state, so imagine a better one.

Try to work 4 elements angle.

End with noting that this is the year NASA dies. And that I expect Spacepunk to be the next big thing. Akin to Atomopunk, but goes further.

All of these is through a non-academic, personal filter. Meant to bring up discussion and talk directly about the metaphors *punks are conveying.

The first and most significant change is that in the near future, anyone posting or replying to a post on official Blizzard forums will be doing so using their Real ID — that is, their real-life first and last name — with the option to also display the name of their primary in-game character alongside it. These changes will go into effect on all StarCraft II forums with the launch of the new community site prior to the July 27 release of the game, with the World of Warcraft site and forums following suit near the launch of Cataclysm. Certain classic forums, including the classic Battle.net forums, will remain unchanged.

That is part of a bit published on Blizzard’s official Battle.net forums, the Blizzard discussion run hub for all of their video game properties. For those not familiar, Blizzard makes World of Warcraft, a persistent world MMO with a sustained player population somewhere north of several European nations. Oh, and then they make Starcraft, a video game with a professional gaming league in South Korea and where a two cable networks broadcast footage of the decade old game 24/7. Last but not least is Diablo, which is really just a giant time sink based around the cover of late 80s metal albums. That didn’t keep it from selling a bajillion copies, though. All three of these games are having either expansion or new versions releasing in the next two years. Which mean Blizzard’s forum traffic is going to go through the damn roof.

Probably why they want to get a handle on the incessant flaming and troll wars that are common place.

They’ve gotten their share of flack for this, though. Several different groups have suggested that this policy would lead to game conflicts spilling over into real life conflicts. That the lack of anonymity could in fact be dangerous to the player base.

I have absolutely no idea why people would think something as trivial as video games would inspire people commit acts of violence. I mean it’s not like there’s a history of that happening all over the world. And every video game player I know is a even-tempered, emotional mature adult. There is absolutely no way anything bad could happen from this.

Oh, wait? What’s that, young lady? You’ve got something to say?

….fuck.

This is a terrible idea, but it is going to be a blast to watch.

My schadenfreude organ is turgid at the clusterfuck that’s going to follow in the wake of Blizzard’s decision.

Hope Larson has been asking young women about the comic consumption habits, and what appeals to them in the medium. Here are the results:

What can authors, publishers, retailers do to better serve teen/tween girls?
1) More and better female characters, especially protagonists. Girls want to see strong, in-control, kick-ass women calling the shots.

2) A welcoming atmosphere in local comic stores is key. Many respondents reported feeling uncomfortable in comic stores. They were stared at, talked down to, and generally treated without respect.

3) Pink, sparkly cutesy comics about boyfriends, ponies, cupcakes and shopping are widely reviled. Condescend to female readers at your peril, writers and comic publishers.

4) The hypersexualization/objectification of female superheroines makes female readers uncomfortable, and sexual violence as a plot point has got to stop.

5) Girls need good stories in a variety of genres.

6) Most girls don’t even know comics exist, or that they would enjoy them. Publishers need to advertise in mainstream media and comic shops need to reach out to girls.

7) Make comics for boys and girls. Comics with dual male and female protagonists. Comics with large casts that offer something for everyone.

8) Use licensed properties to lure new readers into comics.

9) Availability is a problem. Get more comics into schools. Get more comics into libraries—especially school libraries. Get more comics into bookstores, especially large chains.

10) There need to be more women creating comics and working in the industry as editors and publishers.

She’s got more details on her LiveJournal, and the list has pretty much become a must read for anyone who is making comics.

I agree with all of her conclusions. No hemming or hawing, no qualifying of my statements. She’s right.

If comics makers want to appeal to a female audience, moving away from musty shops run by fat slobs and into places that sell Starbucks is the way to go. We need more books like Runaways and fewer Avengers books.

We need less things like this:

And more things like this:

….actually that’s a terrible fucking example. All comic book t-shirts are horrible. We just need less shit like that stuff above.

An odd aside – she interviewed 198 women, which is the same number of mutants left in the Marvel Universe, and X-Men was the most common comic named in her survey. Weird how things line up sometimes.

They are the mascots of the 2012 London Olympic Games. They have their own page explaining what in the hell they are here.

Really, the only thing that needs to be said about these guys my friend Tim said to me when I showed him these two:

shit i wish i could do mescaline and design mascots like these dudes obviously did

Truth from the mouth of babes.

China’s crazies have apparently taken up a new national pastime that involves charging into a school with some kind of melee weapon and swinging at any thing that moves.

(CNN) — March 23: A man stabs eight students to death and wounds five others at an elementary school in Fujian province. The attacker, a former community doctor, was executed.

April 28: A male teacher barged into a primary school in southern Guangdong province, wounding 16 pupils and a teacher.

April 29: An unemployed man stormed into a kindergarten in Taixing city in Jiangsu province with a knife. At least 28 children were injured, most of them four year olds.

April 30: A farmer entered a village school in Shandong province and attacked preschool students with a hammer, causing head injuries. He then set himself on fire and died.

May 12: Seven children were killed, and at least 20 others wounded after an attack at a kindergarten in Shaanxi province.

Sources: Chinese state media

At this juncture I’m sure you’re expecting me to have some kind of cockeyed take on what’s happening. To point out that the male to female ratio in China, and Asia in general, is completely fucked (Which it is). Or to point out that the modern, socially connected world is even more isolating to individuals who struggle at life because it gives a metric to their inadequacies (Which it does) (And which all of these male attackers were).

But, I’m not going to do that.

Instead I’m going to tell you that I was in high school in the last half of the 1990s. I was becoming an adult as my peers, in schools not that far from me, were taking guns to their classmates. Actually, the schools were so close to me that we used to joke that Memphis was the point that connected all of the schools. It was a joke that always hung in our throats as we walked through metal detectors every morning on the way to class. By the time Columbine happened, we were already numb to all of it. I had friends get called into the principle’s office on a semi-regular basis just because they “seemed like the type.” Things only got worse for those kids after Columbine. One of them called in a bomb threat.

Turns out, though, that he’d called it in because another kid had asked him to. Turns out that other kid didn’t want to take a math test that afternoon. Pity they didn’t evacuate anyone.

So, when I say that I understand what’s going on in China right now, I hope that you know what I mean. I don’t mean to say I know what pushes a person to kill a child, but rather I know what it means for people to be wound so tight and then shown the way to make an impact, to have a release. I’d be inclined to wager everything I own that these people committing these acts felt entitled to something greater, and saw their violent act as a way to make a mark – a scar – on history. The first person was the fluke. The rest of them after that one are the truly dangerous things, because they hide in and amongst every thing else. This will only blow over when people become bored with it.

The problem with that? There’s always another first person fluke waiting around the corner to inspire the repressed and the insane.

The only reason we’re not having swarms of single engine airplanes dropping out of the sky into federal buildings is because it’s a bit of a pain in the dick to get a pilot’s license.

That time again. I go into my harddrive and start pulling out images. No idea what’ll happen.

Continue reading…

That’s Larry North. An pink butterball of a man from East Texas who planted dozens of pipe bombs in mailboxes. Because “he was disenchanted with the federal government” and “he was disenchanted with an individual who he perceived that had wronged him”

That’s David Stone, leader of the Hutaree Militia.

These are his people:

This is a panel from Garth Ennis’s comic Preacher.

In which the preacher Jesse Custer, whom the book is named for, confronts a group of Klu Klux Klan members.

An Irishman’s graphic novel ode to the American cowboy mythos says this better than I ever could.

Fair warning from line one, this video has some anime tits in it. Well, hentai tits, if you want to be genre-specific. They are only up there for a half second or so, three times in total, over the course of the video, but I just wanted to put that out there before you people started griping.

Anyway.

This video is called Akihabara Majokko Princess. It is directed by McG, a mass media agent provocateur let lose by the global media concerns to kill our brains. His oeuvre, as you can see, is a questionable, if not prosecutable one.

Which makes his most recent endeavor a puzzling one.

Quick note: that video might get taken down because of previously mentioned cartoon mammaries. Google it if it vanishes.

Yes, that would be Kirsten Dunst bouncing around in the Akihabara district of Tokyo dressed like a reject from an acid trip a fetish love doll an anime character to her own version of The Vapor’s “Turning Japanese”. Now, normally I’d shrug and move along after watching this. But there’s one niggling catch to this. You see, the mad king of Japanese pop art, Takashi Murakami (the guy behind “My Lonesome Cowboy” (that link is soooooo NSFW)), is running an exhibit at the Tate Museum in London called Pop Life, Art In A Material World. And McG has some how managed to get himself rolled into it. And that music video? That’s his entry.

Which gets me thinking. Maybe I’ve missed something here. Maybe McG wasn’t just swiping a song that had a surface level reference to Japan. Maybe he picked that song because he was re-imagining the masturbatory implications of the song in terms of the Japenese cultural obsession with the fantasy world of anime. And maybe, beyond that, he’s trying to make a statement about how the West’s attempt to assimilate this otaku culture is also masturbatory and self-gratifying without doing anything to advance our own culture.

Which in thinking these thoughts makes me think another:

I hate myself for giving McG this much credit.

I’ve decided that I’m going to tell myself that Murakami just told him what to do and that McG is incapable of creating something multilayed and interesting.

Isn’t he?


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